The Philippines’ Land Transport Office (LTO) yesterday called out a prominent political analyst on its Facebook account for a photo that shows a dog behind a car’s wheel.
The LTO, a government agency which goes after erring drivers, called out columnist Richard Heydarian for posting a photo of himself sitting behind the steering wheel of a car with a white poodle standing on his lap. The dog’s paws were on top of the steering wheel.
“Someone wants to drive instead,” said Heydarian’s caption.
The LTO reposted the photo on its Facebook account and judging by its caption, they didn’t think it was cute.
“This method of driving is not allowed by our administration because it might lead to a tragedy or an accident,” the LTO wrote in Filipino. “It’s clear that this is a violation of the law and no one should do anything similar to this.”
The LTO also added the Tagalog-English hashtag #StayCOOLonTheRoadNotPACOOL, which translates to “stay cool on the road [but] don’t try hard to look cool.”
In a comment underneath its post, the LTO wrote that they will issue a show-cause order (SCO) against Heydarian for reckless driving. An SCO is a court order the requires a person to appear in court to explain why a certain course of action should not be taken against them.
Heydarian left a comment on the post yesterday to clarify to the LTO that his car was stationary when the photo was taken. He also ordered the account’s administrator to take down the post.
“You will take down this nonsense FAKE NEWS post or I will take necessary measures as this can constitute slander and libel,” he threatened. “Please properly investigate and think before posting false statements and accusations against individuals.”
In an interview with Coconuts Manila, Heydarian denied that the car was in motion when the photo was taken. He said that the vehicle was parked at a stopover and the dog, named Picasso, is not his pet but actually his aunt’s.
“The car is obviously parked and I’m clearly in a corner. We were in a stopover when the dog came over. We just thought it was a very cute picture,” he said.
He said pro-Duterte netizens and bloggers, called Duterte Diehard Supporters (DDS), saw his original post and allegedly twisted the story and falsely accused him of reckless driving.
The original post was no longer on his Facebook account as of this article’s posting.
“The LTO’s post is an extension of the DDS’ line. The DDS propagandists are completely twisting it. The LTO’s [Facebook administrator] used the DDS’ line,” Heydarian said.
“Imagine, even my aunt’s little cute dog Picasso is now being used by politicized and used by propagandists!”
Heydarian said that he has been constantly attacked by the DDS since the publication of his controversial blank editorial in The Philippine Daily Inquirer almost three weeks ago.
Titled “Duterte’s independent foreign policy,” the piece’s body was blank as Heydarian’s reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte’s refusal to call out the Chinese government in connection to the West Philippine Sea boat sinking incident.
“There’s a constant attack every single day and the post was twisted against me. I will take that as a case of slander or libel. I’m not completely surprised [that the LTO account posted it],” he said.
“They (LTO) jumped into accusations without any credible effort to investigate if it was a case of reckless driving. For them to attack me is ridiculous. It’s very unprofessional and they completely circumvented due process. What’s their basis for that? If they’re going to file a reckless case against me, I’m going to respond accordingly.”
Heydarian said he will consult with lawyers and with his employer GMA Network on how he should deal with the LTO’s post.
Coconuts Manila called the LTO but they couldn’t be reached as of writing.